How Jesus Christ viewed Moses and the Levites
(Part II) The good, the bad, and the influences they had (Oct 97)
1. Mark 14:22-26 (NKJ) " And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, 'This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.' And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."
2. Why do you suppose Jesus said those things? "Eat?" "Drink?" "Bread?" "Body? "Blood?" Have your religious leaders ever told you what Jesus was REALLY talking about when he used such symbolisms? Evidently, Jesus knew that he was about to be sacrificed and that this would be his last earthly celebration of The Passover with his friends. He wanted to provide his friends and followers with a relatively simple ALLEGORICAL SUMMARY of some of the main points of his ministry--a summary that could be easily remembered and celebrated just as the Jews had been remembering and celebrating The Passover for so many centuries. Today, most Christian denominations refer to this "new covenant" form of The Passover celebration as the "service of communion."
3. To fully understand the significance of the allegorical symbolisms that Jesus chose to use on this occasion, we need to examine the "Laws of Moses" from the "Second Heaven" point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments (Matt 22:37-40). For most readers, examining the Laws of Moses from this point of view will be a NEW, somewhat shocking experience!
4. According to Jonathan Kirsch (author of a biblical commentary called "The Harlot by the Side of the Road"), most biblical scholars now agree that the scriptures that are commonly referred to as "The Five Books of Moses" (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) were compiled and/or written 400 to 700 years after the Israelite exodus from Egypt (around 1280 BC). Some of what was written at that time may have been based on surviving records which originated from Moses, Aaron, and the Levite descendants of Aaron. I'll leave that for the biblical scholars to sort out.
5. In this article, we'll consider how Jesus must have viewed the Hebrew scriptures that were available to him during his adult years. Keep in mind that the "Old Testament" as we know it today did not yet exist in Jesus' time. Each "book" of the Hebrew scriptures consisted of one or more scrolls among a collection of scrolls maintained at each synagogue. Jesus probably viewed the book of Numbers as being a continuation of the book of Exodus and Leviticus as a detailed set of "footnotes" to help fill out the story. The book of Deuteronomy was probably viewed a recap of Exodus, Numbers, and Leviticus with a few more "lessons learned" added. Evidently, Jesus conceptualized the chronological order of these books by examining what they revealed regarding the growth of the Hebrews' "tree of knowledge" (of good and evil), based on the ever increasing restrictions they tended to place on their definition of "neighbor". To illustrate the conceptual foundation that was created by the evolution of that Satanically inspired "tree of knowledge", we must first consider:
5a. In Genesis 24, Abraham decided that the women in his locale were unworthy to marry his son (Isaac) or to share in the inheritance which God had promised him, so he sent a servant back to his home town in Syria to find a wife for Isaac from "within the family." That turned out to be Rebecca. Thus were planted the seeds of "racism" which eventually inspired two of his great grandsons (Levi and Simeon) to deceive and murder every male in the town of Shechem. In Genesis 15:13, God warned Abraham that his descendants would live as slaves in a foreign land for 400 years. Sure enough, as pointed out in Exodus 9-10, the continued insistence of Abraham's descendants on "marrying within the family" (observing an inheritance-inspired limitation of their definition of "neighbor") eventually led to their enslavement in Egypt.
5b. After the Exodus, Moses and the Hebrews abandoned those restriction for a while (Exodus 12:49) until some of them were plundered by a band of Amalekites (descendants of Isaac's son Esau) in Rephidim (a.k.a. Massah or Meribah). At that point, rather than attempting to negotiate a peaceful agreement with his cousins as Abraham had done with Lot in Genesis 13:8-9, Moses decided instead to raise a militia and send it out under the command of Joshua to militarily attack the Amalekites. Although Moses' appearance with his "Rod of God" on the top of a nearby hill helped encourage Joshua's troops to prevail, the significant point to note here is that Moses had begun to put his faith in the "hands of men" rather than in the "hand of God." He ALSO narrowed his definition of "neighbor" from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to descendants of Jacob ONLY (a.k.a. the "children of Israel"). This marked the beginning of Moses' downfall in the eyes of God (and Jesus) and is the reason that God did not allow Moses to personally enter the promised land [In God's words, "because you trespassed against Me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow Me in the midst of the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 32:51)].
5c. The next significant restriction in Moses' definition of neighbor occurred shortly after God used a thundering voice from within a "thick darkness" to introduce the Ten Commandments DIRECTLY to the children of Israel (Exodus 20). According to the text, the children of Israel were so afraid to listen to God directly that they asked Moses to act as an intermediary between themselves and God. Thus God Himself became excluded as a direct "neighbor" among the children of Israel. They were no longer interested in following God's guidance directly. Instead, they looked to Moses, Aaron, and Aaron's descendants to interpret God's guidance in a way that would be more in line with their contemporary beliefs and preferences. As far as they were concerned, it was just as well that God remained concealed in that "thick darkness." The Bible shows that from then on, this particular restriction on their definition of "neighbor" proved to be one of the DEADLIEST of all of such restrictions.
5d. When Moses returned from Mount Sinai with the first set of tablets bearing the Ten Commandments and found that his own brother Aaron had crafted a golden calf for the people to worship, he was furious. He smashed the tablets, pulverized the golden calf, and then (if you interpret Exodus 32:25-29 literally) inspired his fellow Levites to go from tent to tent killing their brothers, companions, and neighbors in much the same way as Simeon and Levi had done to the men of Shechem. This was the first instance of deadly RELIGIOUS persecution recorded in the Bible--and this time it was Hebrews persecuting fellow Hebrews. According to the Bible, Moses' definition of "neighbor" was now limited to Israelites who supported "God's will" as interpreted by Moses and the Levites (even though it was Moses' Levite brother Aaron who had crafted the golden calf).
5e. During Moses' two trips up Mt Sinai to receive a set of tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, he also received detailed instructions from God regarding the rules for the observance of Sabbath rituals, specifications for the building of an ark and a tabernacle (a tent-like portable temple), and descriptions of how the priests were to be dressed (including an "Urim and Thummim" set in a breastplate to be worn over their hearts to continually remind them of God's two most fundamental commandments). Those instructions included further guidelines regarding various celebrations and the beginning of what became a very long set of rules regarding the manner in which animal sacrifices where to conducted.
When the children of Israel had completed building the Tabernacle, Aaron and his sons decided to celebrate the occasion. In Leviticus 10:1-2, two of Aaron's sons (Nadab and Abahu) put some kind of incense in their censers which apparently exploded ("consuming them with fire"). Numbers 3:4 refers to that event as well, explaining that they had offered "profane fire" to the Lord. (This reference to Leviticus helps to explain why Numbers follows Leviticus in the chronological ordering of the books.) In Numbers 16, the Korah family of Levites "rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?'" According to the text, Moses responded by instructing them to fill their censers with incense (the same kind of incense that exploded and killed Nadab and Abahu?) and to approach the Lord before the Tabernacle the next morning. They did, and their censers apparently exploded on them as well, consuming all two hundred and fifty of them in what they called "fire which came out of the Lord." Others in their household were allegedly killed by an earthquake. So Moses' limitations on his definition of "neighbor" were turning out to be VERY flexible in his later years. [As they say, "absolute power corrupts absolutely"!] This may have been one of the incidents that Jesus had in mind when he scolded not only his contemporary religious leaders but their ideological predecessors as well:
Matthew 23:29-35: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar."
5f. During their years in the wilderness, the Levites developed numerous rules regarding what is "clean" vs. what is "unclean". Most of these rules were probably derived from observations of the beneficial or ill effects which eating the various types of foods had proven to have. People themselves were also considered to be "clean" or "unclean" under various circumstances, but usually only for temporary periods. In many cases, they could make themselves "clean" again by offering an animal or grain sacrifice. Those who were deemed to be "permanently unclean" (having suffered leprosy, damaged genitals, etc.) were no longer considered to be neighbors; they were forever expelled to live "outside the camp."
5g. When it came to warfare and militarily acquiring their coveted "promised land", the authors of Dueteronomy portray Moses and the Levites making the following not-so-neighborly distinctions (thereby hypocritically ignoring the Ten Commandments):
Dueteronomy 10:10-18: "When you go near a city to fight against it, then proclaim an offer of peace to it. And it shall be that if they accept your offer of peace, and open to you, then all the people who are found in it shall be placed under tribute to you, and serve you. Now if the city will not make peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. And when the LORD your God delivers it into your hands, you shall strike every male in it with the edge of the sword. But the women, the little ones, the livestock, and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall plunder for yourself; and you shall eat the enemies' plunder which the LORD your God gives you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive, but you shall utterly destroy them: the Hittite and the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the LORD your God has commanded you, lest they teach you to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God."
So it was not Adolph Hitler who invented "total annihilation" concepts such as "the final solution" or "ethnic cleansing". According to the authors of the Old Testament, such concepts were invented by Moses and the Levites (and have been a CURSE to mankind, including the descendants of Abraham, ever since)!
5h. Finally, we have the invention of a limitation on the Hebrew definition of "neighbor" based on greed (a.k.a. "inheritance"). When an Israelite named Zelophehad died leaving only daughters (no son), his daughters approached Moses requesting that they be granted their father's inheritance, so that Zelophehad's name could be carried on.
Numbers 27:6-11: "And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'The daughters of Zelophehad speak what is right; you shall surely give them a possession of inheritance among their father's brothers, and cause the inheritance of their father to pass to them. And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: "`If a man dies and has no son, then you shall cause his inheritance to pass to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father's brothers. And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the kinsman closest him in his family, and he shall possess it. And it shall be to the children of Israel a statute of judgment, just as the LORD commanded Moses.'"
That represented a significant improvement the rights of Hebrew women. But later, when it was pointed out to Moses that a tribe would lose a portion of its "inheritance" if one or more of those daughters were to become married to someone outside their tribe,
Numbers 36:5-7: "Then Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying: 'What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right. This is what the LORD commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, "'Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father's tribe.'" So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers."
So in addition to all of the other (Satanically inspired) limitations which Moses and the Levites placed on their followers' definition of "neighbor", this one practically GUARANTEED the eventual breakup of the twelve tribes of Israel. For that point on, only those within one's own Hebrew "tribe" were considered to be one's "neighbors" (a distinction which had disastrous consequences for the Hebrews in general, as you will see when we examine the book of Judges).
6. When you first read through Leviticus, Numbers, and Dueteronomy from the point of view of God's two most fundamental commandments, you're likely to come to conclusions such as:
6a. Wow! Those Levites sure wrote the rules in such a way as to make themselves wealthy!
6b. Yikes! They certainly inherited their namesake's (Levi's) enthusiasm for shedding blood!
7. But, as Jesus well recognized, there was much more to the story than that. The biblical "editors" who formally compiled (or created) those writings during the reigns of David and Solomon deliberately chose to RESIST the natural temptation to purge the "dirty laundry" from those texts, because they WANTED their readers to derive such ("Second-Heaven-level") conclusions for themselves. These were essential parts of the LESSONS which they hoped to pass to future generations in order to help them avoid repeating same kinds of mistakes.
[Unfortunately for mankind, many religious leaders and politicians later chose to extract those "dirty laundry" examples out of the context of their intended love-your-neighbor-as-yourself lessons, so that they could Satanically cite such examples to "morally justify" all sorts of ungodly actions against others. Anyone who reads the newspapers can see that such practices are still very much with us today.]
8. You've probably heard the saying, "If life deals you a lemon, then make lemon aid!" That's essentially what the Levites did. In Genesis 49, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) cursed his cruel and murderous sons Levi and Simeon and decreed that they and their descendants would not receive any inheritance from him. Somehow, the descendents of Simeon found a way to "beat that wrap" and regain inheritance rights, but the Levites did not (or chose not to). Instead, with considerable help from Moses, they became Israel's priests. They lived scattered among the remaining 11 tribes of Israel, functioning not only as priests but also as judges, medical advisors, scientists, and politicians. The children of Israel didn't have an official "King", but for most practical purposes, Moses fulfilled that role, and the Levites functioned as his bureaucracy. They had established what we call in today's terminology a "theocracy". There was no attempt to "separate church and state" (i.e. to separate the roles of Seth and Cain). As a result, instances of brutal and hypocritical conduct which were not uncommon among governments in those days became "officially justified" [and codified] as being part of the Hebrew religion!
9. In return for their services as priests and governmental functionaries, Moses and the Levites demanded tithes and offerings (a.k.a. taxes) from the remaining eleven tribes. They claimed that since they received no land or inheritance, they needed a portion of the offerings which were sacrificed to God in order to live.
9a. In Exodus, the "firstborn" of each male (livestock as well as human) was decreed to belong to the Lord, provided they were unblemished. The human families of a firstborn child or firstborn donkey (the symbolic equivalence was probably intentional) were instructed to "redeem" them by offering a lamb in their place, just as God had provided Abraham with a lamb in place of Isaac. Evidently, that wasn't enough to support the survival of the Levite bureaucracy, so the authors of Leviticus go into excruciatingly repetitive detail explaining the religious requirements for "burnt offerings", "peace offerings", "sin offerings", "wave offerings", "heave offerings", and "scapegoat offerings" for redemption from a wide variety of identified sins and misdemeanors (even for those which were "unintentionally" committed). The authors of Numbers and Dueteronomy added even more to the list and allowed for the use of "money" to be used in lieu of (or in addition to) animal sacrifices. [The earliest known "coins" or standardized forms of "money" to be used in the Mediterranean area were minted around 600 BC, six centuries after the Israelite exodus from Egypt].
9b. "Burnt offerings" of animals (or even human children) were commonly practiced among the popular religions of Abraham's day. God's substitution of a lamb for Isaac marked an end to the religious practice of physically sacrificing human children among the descendants of Abraham. However, the Levites evidently lost site of the fact that original notion that such sacrifices will "lead to redemption with God" came from the ALLEGORICAL ("Third Heaven") interpretation of the Creation stories (Genesis 1-4). As described in my article "HOW IT ALL BEGAN" (on this web site), the members of the early church assigned animal names to the Godly and ungodly concepts which they were tracking, and they pointed out that the way to get back into the "Garden of Eden" (a pure relationship with God) was to "sacrifice" or "purge yourself" of ALL animal-like spirits (like the beastly "spirit of national sovereignty") which do NOT conform with God's two most fundamental commandments! So symbolically, acts like the
9b1a. Burning a "red heifer" outside the camp as described in the 9th chapter of Numbers,
9b2a. Splattering its blood in front of the Tabernacle, and
9b3a. Using its ashes for "purification from sin",
were SUPPOSED to represent a demonstration of one's willingness (for God's sake) to
9b1b. Purge oneself of ungodly spirits (even your most beloved ones),
9b2b. Show the world the bloody results (or "fruits") which your ungodly spirits have produced
9b3b. Show God and mankind that all that remains in your heart of those spirits are its ashes (an ash-like certification that you have cleansed yourself of ungodly spirits and can now approach and follow God with a pure and loving heart).
This is what Jesus recognized and taught when he said in Matthew 9:13, "...go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." In Romans 12:1-2, St Paul expressed it this way, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
9c. This contrast between the originally intended ALLEGORICAL meaning of the sacrifice concept and the Levites' "literal" interpretation became quite clear in Acts 14:13-15, "Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was in front of their city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, intending to sacrifice with the multitudes. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the LIVING God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them."
10. Now that you understand the conceptual framework which Jesus used when viewing Moses and the Levites, we can consider within that framework the good (or really Godly) things which they accomplished. Within the confines of their limited definitions of "neighbors", the Levites often DID seek to follow God's two most fundamental commandments. They looked at concepts, looked and the results, and evaluated those concepts and results to determine whether or not they were Godly. Since they had no police establishment to enforce their doctrines or judgements, they apparently sought to garner respect for their judgements by claiming that ALL of their laws came from God through Moses (some of them probably did). [As can be seen from his harsh criticisms of the Pharisees, Jesus Christ did NOT automatically assume that whenever a priest claimed to represent God that he did in fact represent God.] Whether they came from Moses or not, most of the Levites' laws (but not necessarily their prescribed punishments) do appear to have been at least partially inspired by God.
10a. Although the children of Israel shared many of the same values and views which their non-Hebrew neighboring tribes had regarding the relatively low status of women and male ownership or property (including "servants", etc.), many of the laws of Moses were designed to eventually reduce some of the unjust disparities that prevailed in those days. We've already seen how inheritance rights were granted to the daughters of men who died without having any sons.
10b. In Exodus 21:2 we see that "If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing." [This may have been inspired by Jacob's experience. The important point is that they innovated the concept of placing time limits on servitude.]
10c. Exodus 21:7-11 "...if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money. [Some legal rights are better than none!]
10d. Exodus 22:9 "For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor." [That sounds reasonable.]
10e. Deuteronomy 22:28-28, "If a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is not betrothed, and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the young woman's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife because he has humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her all his days." [This is a significant improvement over the way Simeon and Levi dealt with that issue in Shechem!].
10f. Deuteronomy 24:14-15, "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you." [That's progress of a sort.]
10g. Leviticus 18:6-11 "None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD. The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness. The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover. The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness. The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father-- she is your sister-- you shall not uncover her nakedness." [This represents a significant departure from the "marrying within the family" practices of their forefathers. Evidently, the Levites finally recognized that marriages among close relatives increases the chances of producing children with genetic defects.]
10h. Deuteronomy 17:6-9 "Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil person from among you. If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment." [They established a rudimentary legal system which included published rules of evidence.]
10i. Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." Leviticus 19:18 "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." [THERE they are folks-->God's two most fundamental commandments revealed in the Old Testament! Jesus didn't invent them; he recognized their significance.]
11. Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy have many other examples where the Laws of Moses helped bring about significant improvements in the health standards and general standard of living of the children of Israel and their servants. The various Sabbath laws forced the Hebrews to "plan ahead" thereby teaching them to use their time and resources more effectively. The observance of these laws, rituals, and celebrations also gave the Hebrews a sense common identity which many of them took pride in.
12. Jesus said in Matt 5:17-20 "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." So in general, it was not the laws themselves that Jesus disputed. What got Jesus REALLY UPSET was their brutally prescribed punishments and the priests' inconsistent and often hypocritical use of "literal interpretations" of those laws to steer people AWAY from God rather than toward Him. Jesus went so far as to COUNTERMAND some of the punishments prescribed in the Laws of Moses. For example,
12a. Regarding justice:
Leviticus 24:19-20 says, "If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him--fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him. But Jesus taught in Matthew 5:38-39 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
12b. Regarding the swearing of oaths:
Numbers 30:2 says, "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." But Jesus taught in Matt 5:33-37 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." [It is ungodly to irrevocably commit oneself to a "logical" path which may eventually depart from the guidance of God's two most fundamental commandments, as Moses had done.]
12c. Regarding so-called "enemies":
As previously mentioned, Deuteronomy 20:16 says, "But of the cities of these peoples which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, you shall let nothing that breathes remain alive". Jesus taught in Matt 5:43-44, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
12d. Regarding Sabbath laws:
Numbers 15:32-36. "Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.' So, as the LORD commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died."
[If our "fundamentalist" preachers who claim to be interpreting the Bible "literally" REALLY believed what they were saying, they would all be serving life sentences in jail for stoning people to death ("because the Lord prescribed such punishments in Numbers 15:35."). Preachers who claim that "the Holy Bible is the literal Word of God" or "the Holy Bible is the in-errant Word of God" are using a DISHONEST propaganda tactic designed to persuade people to "turn off" their reasoning efforts, so that the claimants can convince their listeners to believe "almost anything". Unfortunately for some people, such tactics often work like a hypnotic suggestion! One of Jesus' favorite expressions was, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matthew 13:9, Revelation 2:29). Jesus taught his followers to USE their own reasoning abilities--to personally SEEK and FOLLOW the TRUTH relative to the commandment to love their neighbors as themselves.]
Anyhow, Jesus' take on the Sabbath issue is illustrated in Mark 2:23-28: "Now it happened that He went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went His disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to Him, 'Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?' But He said to them, 'Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry, he and those with him: how he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the showbread, which is not lawful to eat, except for the priests, and also gave some to those who were with him?' And He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.'"
12e. Regarding divorce:
Matt 5:31-32: "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. [Jesus was clearly blasting the attitude among the Hebrew men of his day that women could be morally treated (and disposed of) like "property."]
12f. And last, but not least, regarding capital punishment:
Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." Leviticus 20:27 "A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them." And Deuteronomy 22:21 "...then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father's house; so you shall put away the evil from among you".
[On one hand, it is a Godly thing to point out that unfortunate "fruits" happened to a person or group of people because they were ignoring God's commandments. By doing so, you are helping them understand how they can preclude such problems from occurring again by acting in a Godly manner. On the other hand, it is a VERY SATANIC thing when one personally kills (or arranges to kill) a person or group of people and then claims that "their blood shall be upon them." Satan had definitely "bruised the heads" of Moses and the Levites by the time they wrote THOSE laws (either that or perhaps the authors of Leviticus were actually attempting to portray a satirical parody of the Laws of Moses).] Jesus' response regarding such punishments was as follows:
John 8:3-11: "Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?' This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.' And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.'"
13. Without an established police force, the Levites generally relied on a vigilante style of justice. They not only authorized but PRESCRIBED citizen "avengers of blood" to go out and kill unrepentant offenders of the Laws of Moses (and eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, etc.). Occasionally, the Levites executed such sentences themselves, claiming that God "instructed them" to do so. Apparently, this vigilante approach eventually got way of out control, because the Levites found it necessary to designate certain sites to function as "cities of refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there." (Numbers 35:14-15) It's also interesting to note that by the time Numbers 35 was written, the Levites had abandoned all pretences of "not having an inheritance."
Numbers 35:1-7: "And the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho, saying: 'Command the children of Israel that they give the Levites cities to dwell in from the inheritance of their possession, and you shall also give the Levites common-land around the cities. They shall have the cities to dwell in; and their common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals.
The common-land of the cities which you shall give the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around. And you shall measure outside the city on the east side two thousand cubits, on the south side two thousand cubits, on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits. The city shall be in the middle. This shall belong to them as common-land for the cities. Now among the cities which you will give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee. And to these you shall add forty-two cities. So all the cities you will give to the Levites shall be forty-eight; these you shall give with their common-land.'"
BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY?
14. There are many numbers mentioned in the book of Numbers, but by far the most important are the totals of the two census counts: 603,550 which is number of Hebrew men over 20 (not including the Levites) counted in the first census taken about year after the children of Israel left Egypt; and 601,730 which is the corresponding number counted about 39 years later when the Israelites were about to enter the "promised land". In each case, the census was taken to help determine proportionally how the "promised land" should be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. (Joseph's second son was awarded the status of a "tribe" in lieu of the Levites who at that time were not permitted to own land). In conjunction with the first census, Moses sent twelve spies into Canaan check out the "enemies" military capabilities. Two of the twelve spies (Joshua and Caleb) returned with optimistic reports about the chances for military successes, but the remaining ten spies gave a fearsome account of the enemy's size and capabilities. So the children of Israel decided not to go at that time. According to Moses, God was furious with them because of that. So they would not try again until all of those children of Israel (except for Joshua and Caleb) had died and been replaced by their descendants.
15. A very important question, which seems to have never been asked by most biblical commentators, is "Why didn't the Israelites' population INCREASE during the intervening 39 years? Jacob had only about 70 descendants (some of whom were women) when he traveled to Egypt to join Joseph. During their 400 years in Egypt, their population more than doubled every 20 to 25 years! When you consider that many of the Hebrew men had two or more wives in those days and that their children often numbered eight or more, and when you also consider the fact that their religious laws were written in such a way as to "strongly encourage" the Israelites to have LOTS of children, then why didn't their population more than double (or even triple) during that 39 years in the wilderness? What happened to the additional 600,000 to 1,200,000 Israelite men over twenty years old who SHOULD have been there by the time they took the second census? Were they killed in a great war? No! The only recorded battle during that period was that one-day skirmish with the Amalekites. The serious fighting didn't begin until AFTER the second census was taken. Were they killed off by great plagues? The Bible does mention some plagues that occurred during that period.
15a. After the children of Israel complained to Moses that they didn't have enough meat to eat, Numbers 11:31-34 records that "a wind went out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day's journey on this side and about a day's journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. The people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. So he called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving." [The text provides no estimate of how many were killed here]
15b. Numbers 14:36-38 "And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land." [That accounts for 10 men.]
15c. Numbers 16:41-49: "On the next day [after those 250 censer-holding community leaders where consumed by fire] all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, "You have killed the people of the LORD.' Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.' And they fell on their faces. So Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.' Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident."
[Hmmmmm. Another "incense killing"? Human history is littered with gruesome examples of the mass murder of alleged "heretics" by religious organizations that had acquired to use of the "tools of Cain."] So anyway, that accounts for about 15,000 men.
15d. Numbers 25:1-14 "Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.' So Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor. And indeed, one of the children of Israel came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 'Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ``Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.`` Now the name of the Israelite who was killed, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father's house among the Simeonites (Did you catch the irony--a descendant of Levi killing a descendant of Simeon for sleeping with a non-Hebrew women?) [So this accounts for the loss of about 24,000 men, most of them perhaps from the tribe of Simeon].
Later on in Chapter 31, Moses sent troops to out to "utterly destroy" the Midianites (even though his own wife was a Midianite). When his troops returned with thousands of captive Midianite women and children, Moses became angry and ordered that all of their captives (except for the virgin girls) be killed. In the eyes of God (and in the eyes of Jesus), Moses had by this time strayed FAR AWAY from following with Will of God.
15e. Also during this time, the must have had occasional outbreaks of leprosy, because a considerable number of their published guidelines were obviously designed to contain and eliminate that threat. The text doesn't indicate how many men became victims of leprosy, but if you subtract from the 39,010 men who were specifically reported to have died from the aforementioned "plagues" from the 600,000 to 1,200,00 missing Hebrew males, it's difficult to believe that the remaining unaccounted for males died from leprosy or from eating diseased quail (especially considering the attention which the Hebrews paid to habits of cleanliness).
16. Could it be that most of the additional 500,000 to 1,100,000 Hebrew males which we would have expected to see at the end of that 39 years of Levite theocratic rule got "weeded out" by the Levites' overly harsh theocratic rules (and by overly zealous vigilante "blood avengers")? Could it be that this was the primary reason that the authors or compilers of the book of Numbers chose to call it the book of "Numbers" (hint, hint)? Evidently, judging from his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus would have answered "yes" to both of these questions.
17. If you look at the Middle East today, you can see that God KEPT his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (and Haggar, Ishmael and Esau)--in spite of the brutal efforts of various factions among Abraham's descendants to grab ALL of that "promised land" for themselves. If the children of Israel had simply migrated into Canaan and treated their non-Hebrew neighbors like real neighbors, as Abraham had done before them, they could have accomplished the essentially same results without all that bloodshed!
18. Deuteronomy 8:3 "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD". This Old Testament verse shows that Jesus was NOT the first to view the "manna" in the "Manna from Heaven" story in Exodus as being an allegorical representation of the promising (but imperfect) teachings of Moses (teachings which even Moses knew would "dry up" when "exposed to the light of Day"). As Jesus said,
John 6:45-58: "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' [i.e. DIRECTLY] Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven-- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.'"
19. The allegorical "bread" which Jesus was referring to represents Jesus' ministry on earth. To "eat" that bread is to believe (and put one's faith in) what he taught. The allegorical "blood" which Jesus was referring to represents the redeeming "Holy Spirit" which one perceives when one SEEKS and FOLLOWS the TRUTH relative to God's commandment to LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF (without restrictions). To "drink" that blood (a.k.a. "living waters") is to believe in (and to put your faith in) what you learn by doing so. By doing so, you become part of the everlasting Kingdom of God (a.k.a. the spiritual "Body of Christ"). Jesus' "braking of the bread" symbolized that he was ending his earthly ministry and that from then on his followers would have to follow the Holy Spirit for further guidance. The "flesh" which he was about to sacrifice would be his final lesson on earth--his willingness to sacrifice his own life, if necessary, to emphasize for all future generations the IMPORTANCE of following God's two most fundamental commandments! Among other things, Jesus symbolically showed mankind how to save themselves from total annihilation (by sacrificing their beloved but ungodly spirits on the cross of TRUTH and LOVE).
THE INFLUENCES THEY HAD
20. Acts 6:8-14 records how St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was stoned to death over this very issue: "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, 'We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.' And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. They also set up false witnesses who said, 'This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." Stephen than presented his views regarding the history of Judaism and Jesus Christ's place in that history. He was then stoned to death by the crowd.
21. Actually, Stephan's zealous accusers where right about the challenge which Jesus' teachings were making to the traditional "literal" interpretations of the Laws of Moses. When they stoned Stephan to death, the were merely acting in accordance with those laws, at they interpreted them. This is essentially the same issue that is currently being debated between the "right-wing fundamentalists" and "Christian liberals" in America today (i.e. "literal" vs. "allegorical" interpretations of scriptures and whether one's assumptions should be based on the holiness of "national sovereignty" or on the holiness of "God's two most fundamental commandments"). Although our nation's news agencies are still strongly favoring the 'fundamentalist" views in their choices of what to publish and what not to publish, history has clearly shown that it is Jesus' allegorical views regarding a LIVING God which will ultimately prevail and "change the world", because THAT is the way God NORMALLY works. So, NOW you know the meaning AND significance of Jesus' allegorical symbolisms which are recited during Christian "communion services" everywhere!
22. The central issue of interpretation discussed throughout this article is far more than a mere "matter of theological interest." MILLIONS of men, women, and children are currently being slaughtered or starved to death EACH YEAR because (due to the apostasy of our present religious leaders) this issue has YET TO BE RESOLVED! As Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
(one grain of salt)
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002